France puts on military show as Trump marks Bastille Day in Paris

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Security was tight as US President Donald Trump marked Bastille Day

US aircraft participated in the flyover over Paris

Paris CNN  — 

France treated President Donald Trump to an elaborate military display on Friday, a strategic show of friendship by the new leader here who hopes to elevate his country’s global standing by flattering his US counterpart.

Thousands of French troops paraded down the Champs-Élysées in a dramatic show of pageantry to mark the storming of the Bastille military prison in 1789, a turning point in the French Revolution.

Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron reviewed the procession side-by-side from a stand at the Place de la Concorde, appearing in periodic and friendly conversation during the two-hour spectacle, which included 241 horses, 63 airplanes and 29 helicopters all advancing down and above the tree-lined avenue.

They shared another extended handshake as they parted ways, each man gripping the other’s arm as they paced the cobblestones of the stately plaza.

This year, the celebration is also meant to commemorate the centennial of US entry into World War I, hence Macron’s invitation to Trump to attend.

In addition to the display of French military might, the parade was augmented by about 150 US soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines, as well as American aircraft participating in the flyover.

All told, Trump and Macron spent upwards of five hours in one-on-one time during Trump’s 30-hour visit to the French capital. Unlike past French presidents, Macron speaks nearly perfect English and could converse easily without a translator.

Added to his earlier meetings with Trump last month, Macron is now the foreign leader who has spent the most time with the US leader since he took office in January.

In brief remarks following the ceremony, Macron channeled some of Trump’s populist strains, declaring that France’s values must be preserved and underscoring a militaristic effort to uphold personal liberties.

“On this day of national celebration, we must not ever forget the price that we paid for conquering, for winning our rights,” he said. “The price which we are prepared to pay to defend them because it is they which unite us and make France, France and make France what it is today.”

Security around the area was tight amid heightened security in Paris following a series of terror attacks over the past several years. This year’s Bastille Day also marks the one-year anniversary of the truck attack along the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice, which killed more than 80. Macron was due to fly to the Riviera city to commemorate the victims after bidding Trump farewell in Paris.

It’s a packed itinerary for the new French president, who has taken to dramatic displays of Gallic splendor in welcoming Trump to France. Thursday saw a full military review and a tour of Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides before a haute dining experience on the second landing of the Eiffel Tower.

France acts as a key security partner for the United States and has been the second largest contributor to the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, but its days as a military power have faded somewhat. Macron hopes to return his country to major global standing, including by reaching out to the isolationist Trump.

Macron hopes to act as Trump’s bridge to Europe, his advisers have said, as other leaders here effectively isolate the US on a set of key issues. While Macron has made his differences with his American counterpart known, he’s also made plain his desire to foster a close bond.

Trump, meanwhile, has appeared more than pleased at his reception here. As President, Trump has basked in the traditional trappings of power, including the military symbols of the office.

Trump reportedly requested military hardware to be included in his inaugural parade, though ultimately the usual mix of marching bands processed down Pennsylvania Avenue instead of tanks and troops.

In Paris, however, Trump witnessed his desired show of military might, albeit another country’s. He stood and clapped as six F15 Thunderbirds flew overhead, saluted as American troops processed past, and appeared to enjoy a jaunty finale performed by a French military band.

He received applause as he departed, waving to a friendly crowd before stepping into his armored limousine for the ride to Orly airport — an upbeat departure for a leader who now returns back to a storm of controversy back home.